Male Breast Cancer
In the depth of winter, I
finally learned that within me there lay
an invincible summer.
— Albert Camus
What is the risk of breast
cancer in men?
Breast cancer does occur in men, although
it is relatively rare. In 2005, an estimated
1,690 cases will be diagnosed and 460 men
will die from the disease (American Cancer
Society). In the United States, male breast
cancer accounts for less than one percent
of male cancers. Like breast cancer in women,
the incidence of breast cancer in men increases
What are some of the risk factors
for male breast cancer?
According to the National Cancer
Institute and other data, risk factors
for breast cancer in men include:
radiation treatment to the chest
dysfunction and other conditions causing
a disease related to higher levels of estrogen in the body (cirrhosis
of the liver) or Klinefelter’s
syndrome (a genetic disorder that causes
a decreased production of male hormones)
family members (male or female) who
have had breast cancer, especially
a family history that indicates a
possible BRCA2 (or possibly BRCA1) gene
age (the average age of diagnosis is 65)
What are the signs or symptoms of male breast
Many of the signs or symptoms of male
breast cancer are the same as for women.
These may include:
- A lump or swelling
in the breast, nipple or chest muscle
or puckering of the skin in the breast/chest
- Retraction of the
nipple (turning inward)
- Discharge from the nipple
- Redness, scaling or irritation
of the breast skin or nipple.
A more common breast
disorder that occurs in men is gynecomastia,
which is an increase in the amount of a
man’s breast tissue.
It is not a malignant tumor. In any case,
if a man notices any of these symptoms, it
is important that he sees his healthcare
provider immediately for evaluation.
men have very little breast tissue, a
cancer does not need to grow very far before
it may involve the skin covering the breast
or the muscles underneath the breast. This
means that while the tumor may be small,
it is possible that the cancer has spread
beyond the breast. Delayed detection of
breast cancer can reduce survival.
breast cancer in men diagnosed and treated?
For the most part, diagnosis and
treatment of breast cancer in men is much
the same as in women. The procedures used
for diagnosis could include: complete medical
history, clinical breast exam, diagnostic
mammography, breast ultrasound and/or biopsy.
(For more detailed information, see Making
on the type and stage of the breast cancer.
Surgical and radiation options for men
may differ from those available for women.
Because the male breast contains very
little tissue, treatment usually involves
removal of the tumor through modified radical
mastectomy, including removal of the nipple
and areola. In addition, if the tumor has
infiltrated the chest wall, it may be necessary
to remove all or a portion of the pectoralis
Following surgery and evaluation
of the tumor, treatment such as chemotherapy,
radiation or hormone therapy (such
as tamoxifen) may be recommended. Side
effects from these treatments are similar
to those experienced by women under
treatment for breast cancer. (For more
detailed information, see After
the Diagnosis and Managing
Side Effects of Treatment.)
are some of the challenges that men with
breast cancer face?
One of the first challenges is lack
of awareness. Many people are not aware
that men can develop breast cancer.
Because male breast cancer is so rare,
men are less likely to seek medical
attention if they have symptoms. This
often results in diagnosis of breast
cancer at later stages.
The longer symptoms
are ignored, the greater the chances
of the disease advancing. Diagnosis of breast
cancer at later or more advanced stages
generally warrants more aggressive treatment
and may reduce survival rates.
Because of the perception by many that
men do not get breast cancer, a man
may have difficulty receiving and accepting
the diagnosis. He may experience a
wide range of conflicting emotions,
including fear, embarrassment, or feeling
isolated. He may also have concerns
relating to his masculinity, particularly
because breast cancer is predominantly
Can Men Do?
- Realize that breast
cancer CAN occur in men, especially as
they get older.
- If you notice a lump in
your breast or any of the breast symptoms
mentioned above, make sure you see a doctor to have it evaluated.
- If you have
a significant family history of breast cancer (males or
females) or any other of the risk factors listed above, ask
your doctor if he or she
recommends screening for breast cancer
on a regular basis.
- If you are diagnosed with
breast cancer, you are not alone. There are
resources available and other men to talk to who have been diagnosed
with breast cancer.
American Cancer Society (ACS)
800.ACS.2345 or 866.228.4327 (TTY)
Provides information and services for all
forms of cancer, diagnosis, treatment and
other topics. Free fact sheets, support and
resources about male breast cancer.
John W. Nick Foundation
This nonprofit organization focuses on increasing
awareness of male breast cancer, includes
personal stories of male breast cancer survivors,
and has an information booklet.
Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation
972.855.1600 or 800.I’M.AWARE (800.462.9273)
Foundation for breast cancer research, education,
screening and treatment. Has a toll-free
helpline (800.I’M.AWARE) for callers
with breast health/cancer concerns. Offers
the free fact sheet, “Facts for Life:
Breast Cancer in Men.”
Cancer Information Service
One of the best resources available for cancer
patients, this government organization provides
hotline above in English and Spanish for
questions about any type of cancer. Has information
about male breast cancer and treatment.
Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization
800.221.2141 or 800.986.9505 (Spanish)
Provides breast cancer education and support.
Call the 24-hour, toll-free breast cancer
information hotline above
to be matched with a male breast cancer survivor
for information and support.
Books and More
Guide for Men, by Helen Beare & Neil
Priddy (1999). The focus of this book is
on coping with cancer from a male perspective.
It is intended to help men who have been
diagnosed with cancer and are trying to come
to terms with it.
Sourcebook on Male Breast Cancer: A Revised
and Updated Directory for the Internet
Age, by James N. Parker, MD and Philip
M. Parker, PhD, Editors (2002). Helps patients
know where and how to look for information
covering virtually all topics related to
male breast cancer, from the essentials
to the most advanced areas of research.
Has information on symptoms and types of
male breast abnormalities, risk factors,
diagnosis, treatment and
survival rates for male breast cancer, and
Male Breast Cancer, by Carol
E.H. Scott-Conner, MD, PhD, University of
Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
Has general information about signs and symptoms
of male breast cancer, diagnosis and treatment.
Male Breast Cancer Discussion List
Click on Mailing Lists to the left, enter
MALEBC in the search box at the top to sign
up. This public online support group provides
information and community to its members.
Male Breast Cancer, From The Breast Cancer
Information and resources about male breast